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The amnesty – militants – and the nation

By Adisa Adeleye

CERTAINLY, the last two weeks belonged to our unassuming President Yar‘Adua and his able team in bringing amnesty to the warring militants of the embattled Niger Delta region.  The justified euphoria is well deserved as an escape from the embarrassment of using a section of the country‘s armed forces in an attempt to supress insurgency in a specially strategic area of the country [where oil and gas abound in abundance].  It is also a funny situation where the Vice-President of a  nation would watch gleefully the gradual decimation of his own people under the pretence of rightly putting down armed insurgency.

No authority worth its name would allow any section of the country to assert its right through wantom destruction of lives and property.  It is even worse, if the economy of the nation is threatened up to the point of total destruction.
It is even nobler that the militants have shown wisdom and maturity in embracing peace and in agreeing to surrender their weapons for a more meaningful and practical approach to the solution of the difficult problems of the Niger Delta region.

The aura of celebrity that surrounded the surfacing militants and the sight of numerous deadly weapons displayed would point to one fundamental fact – all is not well with the country called Nigeria.  If it is possible to accumulate such puzzling array of sophisticated weapons in private hands in a country with a capable government and sound security service, it is better to shun pretence and admit openly, that we are yet to evolve a stable political entity.

Perhaps the concept of Amnesty to the militants could be attributed to the political ingenuity of President Yar‘Adua who as a scion of the Hausa/Fulani – a ‘superior‘ race, which according to an eminent Yoruba historian, Dr Johnson ‘ are far more astitute than the Yorubas‘, or as I would assert, other Nigerian tribes.

Dr Johnson noted that ‘their more generous treatment of fallen foes and artful method of conciliating a power they could not openly crush, marked them out as a superior people in the art of government.‘. Then, no matter what construction could be given to it, the Amnesty granted to the Niger Delta militants should be regarded as a grand political master-stroke by an astitute politician who happens to be of Hausa/Fulani stock.

However, it should be carefully noted before it is too late, that the seemingly political victory carries with it bags of uncertainties which might result in crash of confidence and trust.  The problem is the ability of the Federal government to transform the Niger Delta into that haven of prosperity [of militants‘ dream], even if it wishes to do so.

The Federal government seems hampered by the limitation of its revenue as against its self acquired responsibilities of maintaining the country‘s states and local governments.  The departing military junta who designed the 1999 Constitution, in order to preserve Federal government supremacy, crushed crucial aspects of true federalism.

Thus, revenue from oil and gas flow ceaselessly into federal covers and distributed according to a formula [enshrined in the Constitution] to the three tiers of government.  To the oil and gas producing areas is allocated miserly a derivation figure of 13  per cent.

The Federal, States and Local Government Councils have become wedded, under the present Constitution, to the ignoble idea of sharing oil and gas proceeds without caring much about their internally  generated funds.  Thus, the growth of corruption and wasteful expenditure in public sectors.

The cash requirements by foreign partners [to develop oil and gas sector] from federal government has become a great problem for growth.  The Petroleum Industry Bill before the Parliament is a subtle way to find funds to meet the demand of joint ventures for oil and gas development without involving the real stake holders,- the Niger Delta people and others.

The Federal Government under a federal system should not regard oil and gas as its sole property [as it is now] but should be regarded as a Nigerian field of investment by people of Niger Delta and others.  Derivation principle should compliment participation and not replace it.

The question of economic development of the Niger Delta region is not an isolated case from the Nigerian general economic development and political stability. Every unit within the federation should be allowed to develop itself with its resources to the best of its ability if nature has allocated certain resources to certain areas, equity and justice demand that people of those areas should not only face its harzards but also enjoy the fruits.

The complexity of Nigeria‘s problems are far greater than what political ingenuity of a single tribe or party [howbeit endowed] could handle.  Our present  legislatures would be least qualified to handle Power, Electoral Reforms or regional police because of their divided loyalties.  What is needed Is a Constitutional Conference under a National Government.

As Archbishop Okogie (now Cardinal) once noted in 2001, ‘Nigeria should sit down and work on the Constitution‘.  The agitation for national conference has been in for long and I think this is time to hold it.  We cannot run from it for much longer.  The more we run, the more necessary it becomes.  One thing to fear about this nation is civil revolution.

I see a civil revolution in this country and I fear it—you hear of ethnic militias everywhere.  It is telling us something……..(weekend Vanguard, November 21, 2001).
In 2009, Cardinal Okogie mused, ‘Democracy at 10 is zero.  Those who are there know it and they are the ones destroying it‘.  President Yar‘Adua seemed to have agreed.

‘The promise of Independence is yet to be fully realized,‘ he said in his address to the nation on the 49th Independence Anniversary.The nation should now discuss on an ‘assured destiny of peace, progress and prosperity, for our common destiny.


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